The St. Louis Blues and the team now known as the Dallas Stars have long been joined at the hip. In terms of recent success, little has changed.
The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars came into the NHL at the same time. Of course, back then they were known as the Minnesota North Stars.
The teams seemed destined to be joined at the hip. Even the Stars move to Dallas before the 1993-94 season did little to change that. For whatever reason, they have never been the bitter rivals you see with teams like Chicago or Detroit.
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That may change now. Dallas seems poised for more postseason success and that could mean more playoff matchups like the one the Blues and Stars had in the spring of 2016.
There have been moments in the past, of course. The Stars took down the Blues en route to their lone Stanley Cup. The Blues swept the Stars before losing to Colorado in 2001.
Last year’s playoff match was the kind of series that breeds contempt though. A hard fought seven game series with teams trading punches like heavy weight boxers is enough to build a new rivalry upon.
The Stars are built to win now and don’t look like they intend to give up their top spot in the Central. That makes it more likely the Blues will have to see their southern counterparts in the postseason.
How long that lasts is up to the Stars management. There is no doubt they can win now, but they have several contracts coming up after the season, which could mean some big changes.
For now, the focus is on this season. The Blues are looking up at the Stars and may continue to do so.
Dan Hamhuis was the only major addition the Stars made from the outside. The Stars added some pieces from the inside, but Hamhuis is the only new player.
Mar 29, 2016; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) defends San Jose Sharks forward Micheal Haley (38) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Hamhuis joins Johnny Oduya as the veterans on a very young defensive core. Jordie Benn is the only other defender even close to the age of 30.
Hamhuis is not a scorer. The Stars did not bring him in for offense.
With so many young players coming through, Hamhuis is being brought in for stability. Even at 33, he has never failed to average more than 21 minutes and last season was the first time since 2008-09 he was a minus player.
Also gone are Colton Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler. None of those pieces are going to make a huge difference, but when you make that many changes to a Cup contender, you can’t be sure how it will play out.
May 3, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Dallas Stars center Colton Sceviour (22) shoots the puck on St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) during the first period in game three of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
As Craig Custance points out, the Stars are gambling that their young defenders are ready for prime time. They had better be because the defense was part of the reason the Stars crashed out of the playoffs to begin with.
Fiddler is understandable. At 35, the Stars had to make some choices and he just did not figure into that despite having a good year.
Sceviour is a bit more odd. The Stars are clearly going younger with their bottom six forwards, but Sceviour is only 26 and coming off a career year. The fact he signed in Florida for under $1 million also makes it a little harder to understand from outside the situation.
The Stars offense is still going to be one of the best in the NHL. They have scorers overflowing, but keeping them out will be more difficult.
The Stars gave up the most goals of any playoff team. They also have not really addressed their real issues.
Defense was their major issue in 2015-16. Hamhuis and some players making the jump from the AHL don’t seem like enough to ease those fears.
Also, the Stars kept both of their goaltenders. They have plenty of cap space, but they are spending over $10 million on that one position.
Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi both have good talent. However, both are over 30, so they are what they are at this point in their careers.
It’s fine to keep both goaltenders, but eventually the Stars have to figure on one over the other before the playoffs begin.
Given the team’s offensive talents, there is no reason to figure they will be supplanted as one of the top three in the Central. They may not win the division, but they won’t be a wild card either.
Winning the Cup may be harder to do. History has proven, more often than not, defense wins and until the Stars show they have some, winning a championship may stay just out of their grasp.
Despite the fact the Stars have a Cup to their name and the Blues do not, St. Louis has actually had the best of the series.
St. Louis has the edge 165-143-43 overall. Despite the Stars having some great teams, the Blues have never had a record under .500 against them in any decade.
2010-11 and 2013-14 are the only seasons this decade the Stars have beaten the Blues in the regular season. With both the Stars and Blues making several key changes, it’ll be harder to know how this year’s games play out.
This year, the Stars are one of the division teams the Blues only see four times. The first will be on the road Thursday, November 3.
Next, it’s at home Monday November 28. The two finish off with the Blues on the road Tuesday, December 20 and at home Saturday, January 7.
Dallas is going to be tough for anyone to contain due to their offense. There is no reason the Blues cannot continue to compete with them though.
Sometimes it seems fans get so caught up with what the Blues have or have not done, they think other teams are only improving. The Blackhawks and Stars have undergone changes of their own and that always means things could turn out differently.
From a pure results standpoint, the Blues are hoping that does not happen. It took more games than they would’ve liked, but St. Louis took down the Stars in the playoffs.
With the likelihood these teams meet in the postseason again, St. Louis is hoping that result stays the same.